SoftBank Group Corp. has a new high-tech invention. However, it’s quite different from the home and business companion robot, called Pepper, it commercially launched three years ago. For one thing, the new device is specifically designed to mop floors. 

The new robot from SoftBank is called Whiz. Unlike the chatty Pepper robot, Whiz is more focused on cleaning floors. Hence, it does not come in humanoid form. It is very machine-like instead. 

According to SoftBank Robotics chief business officer Kenichi Yoshida, they thought of creating the mopping robot because the company spends 180,000 yen or US$1,597 a month for a crew to clean its headquarters. The Whiz would shave about 35,000 yen or US$311 off the monthly cleaning bill. 

The 32-kilogram robot features an array of sensors from San Diego-based startup Brain Corp. that is part of SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, as per Bloomberg. Whiz is also powered by self-driving software, so it could move on its own and clean the floors whenever needed. 

At a briefing in Tokyo, Brain founder and CEO Eugene Izhikevich said, “At Brain, we want to see the future where robots are everywhere. We want to enable this revolution.”

Brain does not manufacture its own hardware, so it is focused on developing software for certain machines in closed environments. As such, Whiz has  this special handle that humans can use to teach the robot about the layout of the space it is tasked to clean. 

Once Whiz has already learned the layout of the space, it can already function on its own. It performs the task autonomously and can operate safely without human supervision. That’s because it is equipped with a laser range finder, 3-D camera, and a collision sensor.

SoftBank’s Whiz, which has a 3-hour battery life, is set to launch in Japan in February of next year. The robot is going to be available for rent for 25,000 yen or US$222 a month. 

SoftBank SoftBank’s newest robot is designed to mop the floor. Photo: Getty Images/Kazuhiro Nogi